Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Adding Family Health History to Your Family Tree

A few years ago, I collected death certificates for my parents and grandparents and took them with me to an appointment with my family physician for a physical. He glanced through them but detected no pattern of illnesses to worry about, for which I was thankful.
I recalled this event when I read the article "Exploring Your Health Roots," by Evelyn Theiss, published on Tuesday, Nov. 22, in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. (In checking the website,, I found that she initially published the article online the day before. You can read it by clicking here.)

The timeliness of the article was highlighted in the subhead to the newspaper version: "Holiday season is a good time to create a family tree that looks at relatives' medical histories."

A quote pulled from the article and featured prominently in the layout of both the newspaper version and the online version follows:
"Any individual looking at their family history and family background will have a better understanding of what particular genetic disorders they are at risk of developing." Dr. Sean McCandless, medical geneticist, University Hospitals Case Medical Center

Apparently, some families try to avoid talking about family illnesses and causes of death. This apparently was especially true a few decades ago.

The article goes on to point out that problems encountered by siblings and aunts and uncles are important. That has led me to go back and check what I know about others in my family besides my parents and grandparents. Fortunately, I still cannot detect any pattern to worry about.

FYI, if you wish to create a family health history, the U. S. Surgeon General provides a free tool online. Click here to check it out.

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